File picture from 2016 shows Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz looking at temporary accommodation to visiting pilgrims in Mina, near Mecca. Image Credit: AFP/Saudi Royal Palace

Cairo: Saudi authorities are going ahead with a project to upgrade tent camps accommodating Muslim pilgrims in the valley of Mina as part of preparations for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage that will be attended by overseas Muslims for the first time in around two years due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Field works are under way in Mina, known as the city of tents and located around 8 kilometres south east of the holy city of Mecca, ahead of the upcoming annual Hajj season due to be attended by about 1 million pilgrims from inside and outside the kingdom, Okaz newspaper reported.

Development works include coating fronts of tent camps with anti-heat insulators, asphalting interior of the sites, installing new air conditioners to cool high temperatures during this year’s Hajj due in July and building top-notch kitchens to cope with the large numbers of pilgrims seen in the next years, the report said.

Saudi Arabia said last month it would allow 1 million pilgrims from inside and outside the kingdom to perform this year’s Hajj, after restricting the annual ritual to some thousands of Muslims living inside the country for the last two years due to COVID-19 outbreak.

Eligible pilgrims this year must be under 65, fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and present a negative PCR test, Saudi authorities have said.

Around 2.5 million Muslims from around the world used to attend Hajj in Saudi Arabia every year before the pandemic.